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Photography Basics: Understand ISO in 4 Simple Steps

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Do you want to know what it takes to become a great photographer? Well, the answer is − an eye to capture the moment in all its glory along with good knowledge of the technicality involved. Let us first introduce you to ISO in photography.

It is one of the major aspects of photography, the others being aperture and shutter speed.

These three factors affect the exposure of a photograph i.e. how light or dark the picture is going to turn out.

ISO feature is what determines how sensitive the image sensor is to light, based on which you can change the setting to yield the desired output. A lower ISO number means lesser sensitivity to light, while a higher ISO number ensures an increase in the sensitivity of your camera. With increased sensitivity, your camera sensor can capture images in low-light environments without having to use a flash.

Here, we have given a simple explanation to help you understand what is ISO in photography and what happens when you change your camera’s ISO and how will it affect your image quality.

Wondering what’s ISO in Photography?

The exposure of your photos is determined by 3 main factors, ISO being one of them. Contrary to popular belief, ISO is not an abbreviation. It is derived from the Greek word ‘iso’, which translates to ‘equal’. It represents International Organization for Standardization, which is the governing body that sets standards for various commercial and industrial products, sensors in cameras. The sensitivity of your camera’s sensor and in turn the exposure varies with ISO in photography.

The ISO scale starts from 100 and extends to 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, etc.

Understand ISO in Photography in 4 Simple Steps

As a beginner, you may choose the ‘auto-ISO’ mode, where the camera automatically selects the ISO, based on the light conditions. It works well in low-light environments. The advantage of this setting is that you can set maximum ISO to a desired limit. Now, when ISO is automatically increased based on the amount of ambient light, it does not surpass the set limit.

If you are a beginner then, check out these tips to kick start your photography!

However, once you learn how to use the various options and tools that come with a camera, you can switch to manual mode and select the ISO as per your convenience.

Relation between ISO and Exposure

ISO in photography is a very significant aspect. If you want to gain more control of your camera, it is recommended that you understand it. While the aperture and shutter speed affect lens and exposure time respectively,

ISO determines the level of exposure of the photos based on sensitivity.

Understand ISO in Photography in 4 Simple Steps

You will notice that when the ISO scale is double, the exposure is also doubled and when ISO value is decreased, the exposure also becomes less.

Photo Quality

Iso in photography impacts the quality of the pictures. For good quality photos, it is ideal to set low ISO values on your camera. When the ISO value increases, the exposure also increases which in turn results in increased digital noise and hence, the picture will most likely look grainy. The consequence of more noise is a rougher-looking image and a decrease in image quality.

Understand ISO in Photography in 4 Simple Steps

If the ISO is low, then sensitivity is low which produces better quality photos.

Therefore, it is recommended to retain low ISO to get the highest quality image from your camera.

Understand ISO in Photography in 4 Simple Steps

Nonetheless, there are times when it is difficult to get a proper exposure without increasing the ISO. One of the most obvious examples of this scenario is indoor sports photography, where your subject is moving fast and you may have limited light available.

ISO in Photography – Variations for Different Types of Pictures

ISO 100-200

This ISO range is suitable for clicking pictures in daylight. The pictures taken will be of good quality and the details will be visible easily.

ISO 200-400

If you are clicking pictures in the shade or well-lit interiors, this setting will work perfectly fine.

ISO 400-800

Even exposure and detailed background are obtained when you are shooting flash indoor pictures at this ISO range.

Understand ISO in Photography in 4 Simple Steps

ISO 800-1600

For live events like music concerts which happen in low light conditions and where flash isn’t allowed, there’s no option but to use this range of ISO.

ISO 1600-3200

For extreme low light conditions, as in the case of live shows (at night), use ISO range of 1600-3200.

ISO 3200 and above

If your idea is to capture the moment at its artistic best sans details especially when the light is very low, use this range. As discussed earlier, these pictures will look grainy due to high ISO range.

Not everyone is an expert in photography but with some with tips and tricks, an amateur photographer can also click great pictures. The sensitivity level and related settings of the camera may not be your first focus when it comes to clicking pics. But, paying attention to ISO in photography has its benefits as it will improve the quality of the photographs (almost) instantly!

The sensitivity level and related settings of the camera may not be your first focus when it comes to clicking pics. But, paying attention to ISO in photography has its benefits as it will improve the quality of the photographs (almost) instantly!

Serious about photography as a passion, check out 11 Tips for Those Starting Out with Photography!

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